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Friday, February 12, 2016

Subject Searching

Type a word or phrase into a search box and chances are something will come up. But for really effective searching, it is important to find the right language. Using subject headings, sometimes called controlled vocabulary, is one way to focus on concepts rather than on random words.

For every record indexed in ICL, our indexers assign subject headings, which are the concepts that best describe a document’s contents. No matter what words an author assigns to a title or abstract, the indexer considers the entire document when selecting subject headings. Searching by subject, then, means searching by concept, which in many cases results in a more meaningful retrieval.

For example, an editorial entitled Toward cultural authority receives 3 subject headings:
Chiropractic / trends
Primary Health Care
Research / trends

There are two ways to search ICL by subject – using the Subject Index (available in the Advanced Search) or the pull-down Subject Keyword field. What is the difference between the two?

Typing a word or phrase (always enclose phrases in “quotation marks”) in the Subject Keyword field (from the pull-down menus on the search page) captures all subject headings using that word or phrase. For example, a subject seach using the word economics captures all subject headings that have economics as a subheading.

You may select subject headings directly from the Subject Index (directly above the search boxes in the Advanced Search); simply search for a subject, then click on it to place it in one of the search boxes. Using this method allows you to choose broad subject headings or more specific subheadings within subjects.

The ICL indexers use two sources for subject headings:

  • Kempke A, Boni BA. Chiropractic Subject Headings 6th ed. 2009 Chiropractic Library Collaboration, 2009.
  • MeSH  [Medical Subject Headings, U.S. National Library of Medicine]
    –  MeSH terminology provides a consistent way to retrieve information that may use different terminology for the same concepts
    – for help with MeSH, see the tutorials on the MeSH page

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